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How Does Hitchcock Create Tension and Suspense in the Film 'Psycho'?

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Introduction

How Does Hitchcock Create Tension and Suspense in the Film 'Psycho'? Of all of Hitchcock's films "Psycho is certainly the most critically acclaimed. It is thought of by many as 'genre-defining' and it certainly introduced many of the popular horror conventions used by filmmakers today. It is about a young woman named Marion who has stolen money from her employer and plans to run away with her boyfriend. On her journey she stays in a motel where she meets Norman Bates, a seemingly innocent man who lives with his mother and runs the hotel. Norman turns out to be a schizophrenic murderer who believes he is acting out his dead mother's wishes. One of the reasons why "Psycho" has achieved such success is the intense amount of suspense created, which far surpassed any previous films of the genre. Indeed, audiences of today are often desensitised towards the film. This, however, is only because the conventions set down by the film have been interpreted and developed on in modern films to such an extent. Hitchcock's effort to create such an air of suspense was extremely thorough and he left nothing to chance. ...read more.

Middle

Lighting plays a large part in the film and is used to greatly aid the tension. Right down to the lighting used on the characters faces. Marion is usually bathed in light absolving any suspicion we may feel with the character. Norman's face however, is often hidden by shadow invoking a great amount of suspicion. Hitchcock also uses shadow to hide the identity of the killer. All pretty standard as far as horror films are concerned. Though Hitchcock does do some things differently. The shower scene is an example of this. In the shower scene Marion is shown taking a shower. A shadowed figure is seen through the shower curtain. The curtain is pulled back and Marion is stabbed to death by an unknown killer. Up until this point no violence has been seen in the film. This scene is lit extremely brightly and at first creates the illusion of romance; at the time such a scene would be seen as extremely risqu�. These points create an extremely ambiguous impression and instil a huge amount of suspense in the audience. ...read more.

Conclusion

'Psycho' has extremely distinctive and memorable music, which is used to manipulate the audiences' emotions. Violins are used in this music, which are ideal because of the range of emotions they can create. Smooth music calms the audience, frantic music panics the audience and quiet music or silence causes suspense. Hitchcock uses the absence of sound extremely well for example after the murder in the shower when all music stops and only running water can be heard. In this instance the lack of sound allows the audience to reflect and reassess it's opinions. As I have shown you Hitchcock utilises a plethora of techniques to create tension and suspense. Some of these techniques are complex and purely subliminal, these techniques are particular to this film and not at all transferable. Other more overt but equally* less complex techniques such as his use of shadow are more revolutionary because they have been transferred and applied to the entire horror genre. It is because these techniques have been used and evolved upon so much that audiences of today don't always experience the suspense and tension of audiences of the time. It seems that although it is hard for audiences of the current day to understand, it was Hitchcock's use of innovation and revolution that truly caused the most tension and suspense. ...read more.

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